No Woman, No Drive

It’s not news to most that Saudi Arabia is notorious for taking basic human rights away from its female population. It currently forbids them from traveling abroad, opening a bank account and even from working without permission from a male relative.

Another way the Saudi government attempts to keep women locked in the Stone Age is by not allowing women to drive. It is the only country to ban women from driving by refusing to issue drivers licenses to them. Saudi Arabian YouTube comedy star Hisham Fageeh recently released a musical video satirizing the ban, and set it to Bob Marley’s famous song, “No Woman, No Cry.”

The video pokes fun at the patriarchal structure of Saudi Arabia, even pointing at the ridiculous claims made by a Saudi cleric that a ban on driving will protect women’s reproductive organs. Fageeh sings, “Ova-Ovaries all safe and well, so you can make lots and lots of babies.” Written with both Arabic and English subtitles, the video is impressively a cappella (with one person even using his ruffling beard as a musical instrument), and although it seems at times to be more about the clever song parody than the issue, it makes a point. As Euronews reports, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest per-capita usages of YouTube in the world, meaning that viral videos could be an effective tool for social change. Fageeh’s YouTube channel gets around 1 million hits a day. Many Saudi women have already made use of the medium, uploading videos and pictures of themselves driving in protest of the ban.

Fageeh told Euronews,

I’d like it to get to people’s pages, newspaper pages and onto their television sets … and for people to think that Arabs and Saudis can joke and they can laugh. I think that’s what is really important to us – that people abroad understand that.

Fageeh may think that showing the world that Arabs and Saudis can joke is important, but even more important is this video’s inherent message that not all Saudi men spend their time thinking up new ways to repress women. In fact, some of them even find unique and entertaining ways to defend women and satirize the institutions that seek to repress them.

Photo is a screen shot from “No Woman, No Drive” video on Youtube


Melissa McGlensey recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.A. in English and Spanish with a minor in creative writing; she is currently interning at Ms. Read more from her at